We often hear people say that there is a big difference between being heard and being listened to. The epitome of exploring and understanding this difference is The Blue Butterfly Project. This non-profit initiative aims at providing free mental health services and increasing mental health awareness. In an exclusive interview with News Karnataka, a student volunteer from the project shared her views and thoughts.
Shruthi R Bharadwaj is a twenty-year-old final year student pursuing BA in Journalism, Psychology, and English Literature from Christ Deemed to be University. In conversation about The Blue Butterfly Project, she informed that she was looking for opportunities in a desire to volunteer during the pandemic that began last year. Luckily, she came across The Blue Butterfly Project in July 2020. She gathered that this project was a student-led initiative under the Dream Excellence Foundation. She reached out to the team that took her under its wings. The volunteer currently works as a content writer, providing content on topics like toxic positivity or tips on increasing self-esteem and the like.
Pandemic gives its birth.
Shikha Shah founded The Blue Butterfly Project. She came up with this idea during the pandemic in June 2020. The pandemic inspired this project. “Due to the atmosphere of negativity, apprehension, and fear that tagged along with the pandemic, it weighed more than physical pain or damage that was elicited by the virus,” Shruthi said. She affirmed that a premise of mental health as a rising concern drove this project, making the services they provide extremely helpful to people.
What is The Blue Butterfly Project?
The volunteer asserted that The Blue Butterfly Project is a selfless initiative that provides free counseling, implying that anyone could approach the team for professional help. “It has so much more to give than to receive something in return. For me, The Blue Butterfly Project is a home away from home in a sense, I met these people virtually, and I have been working with them for a year now. They have an excellent, flexible schedule cause all of us are busy with our studies, work, or professional life,” Shruthi maintained. She affirmed that the objectives of The Blue Butterfly Project include reaching out to people who don’t have access to or cannot afford counseling services, facilitating counseling sessions with listening skills. The motto of this initiative is to “help you help yourself” thus acts as a mode of support and assistance in bettering people’s mental well-being.
Interestingly, Shruthi mentioned that the butterfly in the project’s logo signifies the infinite potential human beings possess and the ability which often gets unnoticed. “It’s like a spiritual rebirth. If you observe the logo, you will find butterflies in the air emerging from two hands, which symbolises the scope for positive change and growth. It just needs a little bit of push, and that is why we are here,” she explained. The Blue Butterfly Project aims at listening to people who have specific mental health issues, problems with essential wellbeing, and so on. The project also publishes a lot of information on such relevant topics on its official social media page. Hence, those who are unaware could be educated through their posts, blogs, and articles.
Correspondingly, this initiative becomes one of the very few mental health service programmes that provide free psychological help and spread awareness on the same. “They also have certain designated teams which makes the functioning of the project as official and professional as possible,” Shruthi added.
Why The Blue Butterfly Project?
As a student, Shruthi wanted to work in such a space that could help contribute to society. The idea of free provision of counseling services meant that people could find a reliable and accessible source for them to be listened to. This attracted Shruthi towards the project even though her contribution limits to content creation. “We have a team of psychologists who make their schedules free just so that they could help people who are struggling mentally or want to be heard. Even as a volunteer, it’s always about coming together to make people aware and to do something good. It’s not about being here to gain incentive. They understand volunteers; they understand you as much as they understand the people out there. If you, as a volunteer, have any difficulty, the team is always with you,” Shruthi said.
Shruthi provides content for their social media posts that focus on mental health awareness and how to deal with sensitive issues, taboos related to mental health, and many such things which we as youngsters and people in the pandemic are going through. “I wanted to work here, not only because it made me feel safe, but I also resonated with the kind of services they were providing and the vitality of it for those who are facing difficulties,” she added.
From 10 to 1000
Social media, especially Instagram, has played a significant role in the journey of The Blue Butterfly Project. Shruthi nostalgically told that she remembers when the official page of the initiative had just ten followers, and now they are a family of over 1000! It’s a journey they foresee as fruitful and successful since it is the need of the hour. Being a content writer would have been impossible without social media because this volunteer creates content for their social media pages. She said, “without this medium, we would not have been able to create awareness, break the taboos and reduce the stigmas related to mental health and reach out to people. Since we rely so much on online mode, I think it’d have been challenging to reach out to people, and conventional modes were restricted due to the pandemic. I think social media has played a major role in calling out for volunteers too!”
Some difficulties on the way
The investment for this initiative was made by the founders and core team members themselves, so it is not funded by anyone else. Shikha mentioned that The Blue Butterfly project faced financial issues since it is a non-profit initiative. Often, the free counseling sessions service is misused and not taken seriously. Psychologists make time from their busy schedules to listen to people. Among the difficulties the team faces is absenteeism from the people who scheduled counseling sessions with these psychologists. As a volunteer, Shruthi confessed that she had a rough time managing academic work along with volunteering. “Even though the project is very considerate and flexible, I felt that I am not able to do justice to the role of a volunteer,” she contended.
The Blue Butterfly Project’s impact
Shikha said that they had impacted many people with the team of counselors mainly because most of their clients were young adults, text-savvy teens, who reached out to them asking for help. “Now our focus is more on how to reach the elderly population as well. The feedback we have received so far is very affirmative. We indulge in positive perspectives through our viewers, clients, and colleagues,” she disclosed.
What’s in store?
Speaking on future endeavors, Shruthi revealed that The Blue Butterfly Project would want to find some fundraising to give a token of appreciation to all the psychologists and counselors working with the initiative. “Using these funds, we could also come up with different initiatives and programmes to reach more people and create awareness,” she said. As a volunteer, Shruthi intends to promote this page on social media as much as possible. “This is a very secure space to be you, to express yourself without any judgments. Personally, if I ever turn out to be a counseling psychologist, I would really wish to be a part of such an initiative,” she signed off.